Volume 10, Issue 1 2551
Scientific Report of EFSA
Open Access

Cadmium dietary exposure in the European population

First published: 18 January 2012
Citations: 324
Correspondence: [email protected]
Acknowledgement: EFSA wishes to thank EFSA staff: Davide Arcella, Stefano Cappé and Stefan Fabiansson for the support provided to this scientific output and Alessandro di Domenico and Peter Fürst for their peer review of the publication.
Approval date: 17 January 2012
Published date: 18 January 2012
Question number: EFSA-Q-2011-01249
On request from: European Commission


Cadmium can cause kidney failure and has been statistically associated with an increased risk of cancer. Food is the dominating source of human exposure in the non-smoking population. The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives established a provisional tolerable monthly intake of 25 µg/kg body weight, whereas the EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain nominated a tolerable weekly intake of 2.5 µg/kg body weight to ensure sufficient protection of all consumers. To better identify major dietary sources, cadmium levels in food on the European market were reviewed and exposure estimated using detailed individual food consumption data. High levels of cadmium were found in algal formulations, cocoa-based products, crustaceans, edible offal, fungi, oilseeds, seaweeds and water molluscs. In an attempt to calculate lifetime cadmium dietary exposure, a middle bound overall weekly average was estimated at 2.04 µg/kg body weight and a potential 95th percentile at 3.66 µg/kg body weight. Individual dietary survey results varied between a weekly minimum lower bound average of 1.15 to a maximum upper bound average of 7.84 µg/kg body weight and a minimum lower bound 95th percentile of 2.01 and a maximum upper bound 95th percentile of 12.1 µg/kg body weight reflecting different dietary habits and survey methodologies. Food consumed in larger quantities had the greatest impact on dietary exposure to cadmium. This was true for the broad food categories of grains and grain products (26.9%), vegetables and vegetable products (16.0%) and starchy roots and tubers (13.2%). Looking at the food categories in more detail, potatoes (13.2%), bread and rolls (11.7%), fine bakery wares (5.1%), chocolate products (4.3%), leafy vegetables (3.9%) and water molluscs (3.2%) contributed the most to cadmium dietary exposure across age groups. The current review confirmed that children and adults at the 95th percentile exposure could exceed health-based guidance values.